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Kevin’s Kitchen

From Loathing to Loving

Vegetables are now our friends

Did you hate your veggies when you were a kid? You are not alone.

I was always a good eater—and still am. But some things were just hard for me to stomach. Peas and lima beans often found themselves being pushed around my plate as if I could make them disappear by keeping them in constant motion. I would resort to swallowing them whole like pills so I could have dessert. (My folks were clean-your-plate kinds of parents.)

My dad dearly loved calf’s liver and onions and chicken livers and gizzards—which seemed disgusting then and still make me a little squeamish, although I enjoy liver sausage now.

Many of our tastes evolve as we mature, so foods we loathed as 5-year-olds might actually seem delicious to us as adults. For me, it wasn’t always the taste of a vegetable that turned me off, but it was the texture that often did me in. Sweet potatoes seemed too soft and stringy, and squash, especially when it was overcooked, was way too slimy.

I’ve gotten more tolerant of those vegetables, and now I even like sweet potatoes (in oven-fry form), and I love squash (especially cooked tender-crisp).

Add enough spices and sauces to your veggies, and you can mask offending flavors. Drop on a little cheese sauce, for instance, and broccoli or cauliflower might disappear from a child’s plate. But such sauces add possibly undesirable fat and calories to an otherwise perfectly healthful dish. Use them judiciously.

I’ve grown to where I savor broccoli without the cheese—just a sprinkling of lemon pepper and a squeeze of lime, thanks. I enjoy peas, although my brother, at age 56, still can’t stand them.

But I still hate lima beans.

Here’s a dish I first had at Austin’s Magnolia Cafe that features many of the most-hated food items in one place, but manages, with the help of a little butter and cheese, to make it all delicious.

Love Those Veggies        

1 large red onion
2 cloves garlic
1 head broccoli
1 medium zucchini
2 medium yellow squash
1 large bell pepper, green or red
8 ounces mushrooms
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon red pepper (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup shredded Monterey jack or mozzarella cheese, divided
1/2 pound raw spinach
Salt and black pepper to taste
Cooked brown rice to serve

Wash and prepare vegetables before starting to cook. Peel onion, stem and seed bell pepper and cut both into bite-size strips. Mince garlic. Chop broccoli into small pieces. Trim and slice zucchini and yellow squash into quarter-inch rounds. Slice mushrooms thinly. In a wok or large sauté pan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, red pepper and garlic powder and sauté until fragrant. Be careful not to allow garlic to brown. Add broccoli and bell pepper and stir-fry until broccoli just begins to soften. Add zucchini, yellow squash and mushrooms and stir-fry another couple of minutes.

Top with half of cheese. Add spinach in one layer, top with remaining cheese, cover and cook until spinach wilts. Serve over brown rice.

Serving size: 4 cups. Per serving: 344 calories, 23.1 g protein, 14.7 g fat, 37.3 g carbohydrates, 372 mg sodium, 40 mg cholesterol.

March 2009 Recipe Contest